Books read in May 2016

Holy cats, Batman, I read two adult fiction books, plus a nonfiction.  What is going on?

recommendedYoung Adult:  The Smell of Other People’s Houses
Grownup Nonfiction:  Spark Joy
Adult Fiction:  Eligible.  I can also recommend Eligible.

picture books
The White Cat and the Monk
Read for librarian book group
There is apparently a poem a monk wrote about the white cat who came into his cell and their mutual search for things?  I’d never heard of this poem and wouldn’t have minded some form of it being reprinted in full at the end of the book.  The illustrations were too simple for the majority of the book–the rendering of the cat I found particularly unfortunate–though they shined on the illuminated manuscript pages.
middle grade

Kwame Alexander
Read for librarian book group
Mr. Alexander brings us another book about a boy interested in sports (this time soccer) told in poetry form.  I love that about Kwame Alexander.  The book contains a solid middle-grade story with age-appropriate challenges (family, school, soccer, love). I enjoyed reading it, but found that two weeks later I couldn’t remember the plot.

Raymie Nightingale
Kate DiCamillo
Read for librarian book group
There was a lot of gushing love for this story by the librarians.  I did not feel the same.  The setting seemed to be a small town, yet Raymie Nightingale was unaware of many elements in her small town.  Nearly all of the characters were turned just the slightest bit too high on the quirky/unique scale and the narrative didn’t grab me and pull me in.  I felt fairly disconnected from the entire story.  I appreciated the illustration of magical thinking (I can fix a problem by doing something unrelated) that was so prevalent during my own childhood.

young adult

The Smell of Other People’s Houses
Bonnie Sue Hitchock
Read for librarian book group
This is in the running for Book with the Best Title, and the book itself was quite strong.  The narrative included multiple perspectives from several Alaskan teenagers in the 1960s and 1970s.  For such a slim book, it packed a lot of story.

Wink, Poppy, Midnight
April Genevieve Tucholke
Read for librarian book group
I liked the title and yet it gave me no clues what to expect.  It turns out that those words in the title are names of the three characters, who all take turns narrating.  This was an intriguing and enjoyable story that kept me guessing, and while it was tense in moments, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “psychological thriller,” as someone does on the book jacket.

Grownup Nonfiction

Spark Joy
Marie Kondo
About this time last year I “tidied” following the KonMarie Method as outlined in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  And it has been very much a life-changing year.  This book is positioned as a “master class” in tidying and it gave me another shot of success, mostly in the clothes folding arena, which I thought I understood from the first book.  However, the illustrations illuminated just how much more tidier my clothes could be. And now they are.

p.s. The historian in me still needs to go on record as to the importance of saving letters you receive.  I do not agree with Marie Kondo at all.

Adult fiction

Curtis Sittenfeld
I’m a casual admirer of Pride & Prejudice, and a rabid fan of Curtis Sittenfeld.  That mean I was eager to read her adaptation of the classic Jane Austin novel. And what fun it  was!  All of the characters you love (or love to hate) find their contemporary doppelgängers in an adaptation that is as witty, frustrating and romantic as the original. (Yet so much easier to read.)  As usual, Sittenfeld has a wonderful way of writing, so no fewer than four quotes from the book made their way to my Goodreads Quotes page.  This was also quite discussable.

Curtis Sittenfeld
(And then I read it all over again five days later)

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
Teddy Wayne
Have you ever had a conversation with an 11-year-old boy who is really, really into something?  Maybe that something is something you don’t know anything about, so at first what he’s telling you is interesting. So it’s fun at first.  But then he just keeps going, because he’s super into his thing and maybe hasn’t matured enough to pick up on the social cues of when it’s time to wrap it up. And suddenly you’re feeling trapped and slightly panicked because, when exactly, will he stop talking?

That was this book.  If you want to be inside the head of an 11-year-old boy who has been groomed for pop stardom since he became a 9-year-old YouTube sensation, this is your book.  It’s full of details like his obsession with “chub” (his own and everyone else’s) his thoughts about what it takes to be a true star, his obsession with when exactly he will hit puberty, and what kind of clothing everyone is wearing.

The author’s point comes through clearly.  I walked away from this book frustrated with the way Jonny Valentine was being used to further various adult goals, and I felt sad that he will never have any normal interactions with children his own age.  But I also walked away frustrated because I couldn’t wait to be done with the book because his narration was relentless and unchanging and left me trapped and panicked.  I’ve spent the time sense wondering if it would have been a more successful book had it been written from multiple perspectives rather than Jonny’s singular, unrelenting one.

4 thoughts on “Books read in May 2016”

  1. I’ve been trapped in conversations with ADULTS who are obsessed with only one topic. One of the bonuses about leaving LA is that I’m having significantly less conversations about exercise. Lol.

    I’m pretty sure I added Eligible to my reading list after seeing it on Goodreads.

  2. Oh, in the ongoing saga of my sad library, I was at my local branch the other day, browsing, when I saw that they have not one, but two, books about Duane “Dog” Chapman (the bounty hunter TV show guy). I mean, really?

    1. I have no idea who Duane “Dog” Chapman is, but I’m glad the people of your town will have not one but two opportunities to read about him. 🙂

      And tee-hee to your comment about conversations about exercise. I can’t imagine.

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